Member for Nhulunbuy, Lynne Walker, today said that alarmingly, residents in the community of Yirrkala had been without power overnight and without water for much of today without any communication from Rio Tinto or the CLP Government.
“After a power outage which affected the Gove region last night, including Nhulunbuy, reports have come in that Yirrkala was without water for as long as 8 hours,” Ms Walker said.
“The local school and childcare had to close as a result.”
“Unacceptably, there has been no communication from the CLP Government, who are responsible for distribution for power and water supplied by Rio Tinto, as to what the problem is and in what timeframe it will be remedied."
Ms Walker also questioned whether the residents would be receiving the same sort of treatment if this incident had occurred last week when the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, was in town.
“Last week Yirrkala was in the national spotlight thanks to the visit by the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott,” Ms Walker said.
“This week it appears as though the CLP Government has returned the region to its usual state of “out of sight, out of mind” for the CLP Government.”
Media contact: Cathryn Tilmouth 0427 500 667
Opposition Leader Delia Lawrie said Territorians are asking why they pay hefty power bills for a system of increasing blackouts.
“The CLP has spent more effort breaking up PowerWater than having a system that can deal with single points of failure like an interrupted gas supply," Ms Lawrie said.
“Territorians were left scrambling for information for hours yesterday afternoon before alerts started to roll out from Minister for Essential Services Willem Westra Van Holthe.
“With the heightened focus on our power supplies after the disastrous system-wide blackout in March, Territorians are entitled to expect a more reliable supply and backup system.
“Questions are being asked about the maintenance of our generation and distribution system.
“What exactly was the cause of gas failure at the Blacktip offshore platform? Why didn’t the dual back-up generators cope effectively with the load?
“The Minister revealed the CLP waited to inform Territorians this afternoon after knowing earlier. How long was information withheld from Territorians?
“We all remember the catastrophic power failure earlier this year and the devastating impact this had on businesses and households.
“Thanks to the great efforts of PowerWater workers electricity was restored but the Government must invest in a reliable back up system to avoid these sorts of potentially catastrophic events.”
Media contact: Mandy Taylor 0414 634159
Opposition Leader Delia Lawrie said the chaos caused by the rushed split of PowerWater by the CLP Government was evident as the first round of split bills hit Territorians.
“As the first bills are going out from Jacana Energy, many Territorians have found to their shock that their former direct debits to PowerWater no long apply to their electricity bills,” Ms Lawrie said.
“PowerWater didn’t give customers the option of transferring their prepayment onto the electricity component of their bill and just left it at the water and sewage component.
“Some Territorians are finding out they are in credit for their water bill but owe large amounts for power.
“The CLP ran an expensive advertising campaign reassuring residents and businesses that the split of utilities wouldn’t affect them but this is not true.
“To make it even more confusing some Territorians are still receiving consolidated bills from PowerWater while others are receiving the two separate bills.”
Labor candidate for Casuarina Lauren Moss said pensioners and low income earners were being hit particularly hard by the direct debit fiasco.
“Many people on benefits use direct debit to pay their power and water bills and are only now finding out they have only been paying off the water and sewerage,” Ms Moss said.
“Power and water charges are a big part of the increasing financial pain Casuarina families tell me they are struggling with.”
Ms Lawrie said PowerWater should have been directed by Chief Minister Adam Giles to write to consumers who paid by direct debit to inform them the payment no longer applied to the electricity component.
“The CLP Government didn’t bother to tell Territorians they would need to set up a new system to keep paying off their ever increasing power bills,” Ms Lawrie said.
“Now we have businesses and families getting a double whammy of more expensive power and finding out their direct payments haven’t been paying off their bill.
“Adam Giles is again showing he cares more about profits than people with the rushed split of PowerWater.”
Leader of the Opposition, Delia Lawrie, today said that as a parting gift by the former Treasurer, Dave Tollner, Territorians are set to be hit with another price hike in their power and water bills.
“In a letter to PowerWater Corporation Chairman, Ken Clarke, the former Treasurer and Shareholding Minister, Dave Tollner, directed the Corporation to increase network charges by 7.7 per cent in 2014-15 and a further 8 per cent in 2015-16,” Ms Lawrie said.
“Mr Tollner gave this direction to Power Water Corporation two months ago.
“These will be price hikes on top of the 5 per cent increase Territorians will be hit with in January next year – which is also on top of the $2000 an average Territory family has already had to find to cover power bill increases since the election of the CLP Government.”
Ms Lawrie said that the CLP Government has made PowerWater vulnerable by splitting off the revenue earners of Generation and Retail.
“In splitting up PowerWater the CLP Government has made a catastrophic mistake by taking away PowerWater’s revenue earning components; generation and retail,” Ms Lawrie said.
“Now Territorians will have to pay higher bills to cover the short fall needed to pay network charges.
“Territorians are already paying too much for their power, water and sewerage bills and this Government is signing off on more increases.
“The CLP Government’s preoccupation with privatising the Territory’s utilities assets will mean even more pain is on its way. Structural separation and privatisation of utilities in other states has resulted in price hikes.”
Media contact: Cathryn Tilmouth 0427 500 667
Shadow Minister for Essential Services, Nicole Manison, today said that the introduction of a new private power station will not mean cheaper power for Territorians.
“This will not mean a family living in the Top End can expect cheaper power bills,” Ms Manison said.
“The new power station that is set to be built by Northern Power and General Electric near Weddell is unlikely to result in lower power prices for Territorians.
“In other jurisdictions where utilities have undergone structural separation and privatisation the result was higher costs and reduced reliability of service.
“This is another step towards the CLP Government’s ultimate goal of privatisation of PowerWater.
“The new power station will sell the electricity they generate to energy retailers who will be focused on making profits, not providing affordable reliable services for customers.
“Electricity and water are essential services for Territorians, and need to be reliable and affordable.
“They should not be used as profit making tools for the CLP Government.”